James 4

As I walk towards the entrance of the Park on 90th Street, I pass an older man of color asleep in an alcove of a prewar building, now home to an embassy.

His name is James, who has lived outside in Carnegie Hill (86th to 96th along Fifth and Madison), for the past 40 years.

I’ve watched him age as a young man, his black hair turning gray then white, with a full set of teeth, now down to 3, causing him to whistle a bit when speaking. 

He’s sane, well as sane as one can be being humbly homeless for so long, and friendly, since he’s known to at least two generations of Upper East Siders. I recall him telling me he stopped smoking, because it was bad for him.

He sleeps across from the lady in the box, a woman I’ve written about, also on the streets way too long. There’s comfort in this, knowing, James would never harm her, but protect her if necessary. 

Is it a wonder a homeless man can be one to count on?

In James’s case, yes. 

I remember years ago, faithfully attending 7 a.m. mass at The Church of Saint Thomas More, while James snoozed in a back pew, snoring soundly.

The late, Bishop Ahern, the sweetest member of any clergy, would excuse himself from the altar to gently shake James whispering, “James, could you please snore a little quieter?”

James would jump and say, ‘Sorra’, sorra’ Bishop, I’m so sorra’.”

Bishop Ahern would answer, “That’s okay son. Have pleasant dreams,” blessing him before commencing with mass. 

Peggy, a longtime worker at the church told me, many members of the parish, including Jackie Kennedy, tried helping him with work, as well as finding a home. 

He always politely declined, she said, even when the Bishop, whom he liked tried, preferring to just live his life like a man, perpetually crossing the desert in no hurry to reach the Promised Land. 

I don’t know about you, but after looking at all I have, often taking it for granted, find great poignancy in that. 

Pride promotes strife, but he gives grace to the humble… James 4: 1-4    




About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Amazon.com. Thanks.
This entry was posted in Culture, Faith, grace, Gratitude, History, humanity, inspiration, New York City, words, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to James 4

  1. skinnyuz2b says:

    Susannah, it’s hard for me to even begin to imagine living homeless for 40 years. It sounds as though James has many people who care about him. It must bring comfort knowing he is not alone.
    I’m often guilty of thinking about what I don’t have (and don’t need) instead of what I do have. The story of James will remind me to give thanks for those I care about and those that care about me..

    Liked by 2 people

    • You and me both, Skinny. Need to keep that cup half filled rather than empty. I known that people feed and give him things he accepts, since he wears a warm jacket and will have new sneakers every once and a while. It’s very humbling to say the least. Thanks for reading about James. Wonder if his ears are ringing. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for writing about a real homeless man. To me “homeless” is a faceless group. You’ve given me a name and an outline of his life, and you’ve done it with grace and compassion. God bless you and James.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you writing about this real and meaningful person. Too often society forgets them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s because homelessness has become the norm. How did it happen? I don’t remember it ever being this bad, those asleep in boxes, some with animals they didn’t abandon. Yes, you can give money here and there to those who humbly take it, though there too are some who demand it, that scare you for fear of being harmed since, many on the streets of New York are mentally ill. James is just his own man for better or worse. He lives in the day his needs modestly met. There’s such a lesson in all of this. Thanks for writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A great lesson today, Susannah. We should give the man his pride and respect his choice. There is honor in being one’s own man. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. kingmidget says:

    40 years? That’s just kind of amazing.

    While there is something to be said for the stripped down simplicity of his life, I would prefer still having a roof over my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dale says:

    We are so quick to judge, aren’t we? I love that you have given him a voice and a raison d’etre. He has chosen this life, obviously, as he refuses any help to get him off the street.
    I read a wonderful book about such a man: “From the Edge of an English Summer: This sort of thing doesn’t happen round here (Wordsworth the Tramp Book 1)” by Michael Wynne. He’s a fellow Friday Fictioneer and I try to read all of their books, and leave reviews to help them in their sales. I’m still catching up 😉
    It was a truly enjoyable romp of a book as is part 2 “Outsiders”.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sorryless says:


    The further along I got, the more I realized that the moments were the only things I really wanted to own. Everything else was dust. So I get that walk of his. It makes total sense to me. And I wish him peaceful dreams.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Eilene Lyon says:

    It is a little hard to fathom the ones who truly want that sort of life, but how many of us really live the life of complete self-direction?

    We have many homeless people in our small community and a camping area has been established that many of them use. It has Porta-potties and a dumpster, plus a number of other things. Still, one resident died of exposure recently. I always wonder why they don’t live somewhere warmer. But mostly I wonder why we don’t have better social safety nets, like in Scandinavia. Why must we, as a country/society, spend so much on weapons of war and giving tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations? We could all be healthier and better educated with a reordering of priorities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know Eileen, we can make an endless list of the things in our beloved country that make no sense. Look what’s happening right now, how if he could, our sitting President would hire an Oswald to take his successor out, and no one can stop the harm he’s planning on doing before he’s forced to leave. The homeless? No one cares about people dying of Covid 19 let alone those on the street…without masks to protect one another and those in their vicinity. It’s every man for himself, including us since, we’re so on our own. I’ll tell you, I never thought I’d see this in our lifetime and I guess, when you look at our history with its many challenges, it was a haughty, arrogant assumption on my part. Always happy when you write.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. It can’t be an easy life living on the streets but there is a certain contentment about someone who just lives their life and is happy where they are, despite the hardships. I want something better for him, but it’s the sort of thing that you can’t force on anyone. He sounds like quite a guy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What I forgot to put in the piece was, how he stopped smoking…said it was bad for him. I just loved that. Maybe I’ll go back and slip it in. Yes, living where your feet are at all times has its benefits, you’ll get no argument here.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. James is the definition of authentic.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. RosieJoseph says:

    I read the Tao, as part of my journey in France. It clearly advises not to have debt, to live the simplest of lives, I think James gets that. I have a roof over my head, but our house needed a new roof on the kitchen for over 3 years, with the rain pouring in at times, but we wouldn’t get any loan to fix it, we waited until RD could cash in his pension. The bank offered us a credit card and overdraft recently because I was earning a good wage. But we said ‘no’, because it would have trapped me in a job that I hated. The girl at the bank laughed when I said we don’t want debt, I don’t think she realised we don’t have any. I get James, I understand his choices, it enables you to be free. We learned our lesson, just have to remind ourself each day. Homelessness is one of the charities that I will give to when I go back to work in Ireland, even if I am on a low wage, because there are some who don’t want to be homeless, and it stops so many opportunities for them, it’s a passion of mine. But… I also get why people choose it, they truly have learned.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: James 4 | RosiesFrenchadventure.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.